Bees and Beekeeping
Despite wind, rain and no water from the taps, 14 members and one guest gathered in Asby village hall for Asby WI’s first meeting of 2020. Guest speakers, Jane and Richard Ridler, master bee-keepers and long-standing friends of Asby President Annie Johnson, had travelled from Essex to give what was an extremely informative and interesting talk about bees and bee-keeping.
Mrs Ridler began by explaining that there are 250 species of solitary bees in Britain, 21 species of bumble bees living in small colonies of about 600, and just one honey bee species whose colonies have up to 60,000 bees.
Jane explained how well organised each hive was with the queen and larvae based at the bottom and the honey at the top. She described the work of the various members of the colony – the queen just lays eggs; the male drones mate with the queen; the female workers begin life keeping the hive tidy, and then progress over three weeks through feeding the larvae, building the wax comb, to guarding the hive. This is followed by a further period when the workers forage for nectar and scout for new supplies. Taken as a whole a colony in its hive could be described ‘as one creative and communicating super-organism’.
Mr Ridler then described the constituents of honey, 75% of which is glucose and sugar. He explained that one of honey’s properties is never to go mouldy. He also pointed out that a hive is in fact a ‘medicine chest’ in its own right as honey is anti-bacterial; propopolis, which the bees collect to sterilise the wax cells, is used in tinctures for mouth ulcers, in toothpaste and in health foods; pollen has a human use, and bees’ venom is used in api-therapy against arthritis as the venom is anti-inflammatory. The wax is used for candles and in ‘Beeswrap’, a re-usable substitute for cling-film. Richard showed members a number of proprietary items such as royal jelly, hand cream, lipsalve, and wound-dressings all containing honey.
He also explained that all honeys are different and had six different kinds for members to taste. Apart from looking after their own hives in Essex Mr and Mrs Ridler also spend time in Uganda with the ‘Bees Abroad’ project where they teach bee-keeping to enable villagers there to become self-sufficient through sales of honey.
Before serving refreshments with Rachel Forrest, Pat Bevan thanked the speakers for their fascinating talk about such incredibly well-organised insects. Louise Reeve won the raffle.The winners of the competition for a honey pot were: 1) Pam Cowey, 2) Pat Bevan and 3) Helen Cooper.